Last week researchers at Columbia University reported that they had taken human dermal papilla cells and cloned them and subsequently injected them into human tissue that was grafted onto the backs of mice and that in 5 of the 7 cases the hair grew and was determined to be genetically matched to the human donors. The hair growth lasted 6 weeks.
This announcement triggered a media barrage of coverage and certainly speculation that we are closer than ever to being able to clone hair.
When we are able to clone hair, and I say when because I believe we will be able to clone hair sometime in the future, it will possibly be the greatest advance yet in the field of hair restoration. It may also be one of the greatest advances in medicine because it may lead us to be able clone organs and most certainly skin.
Almost everyone will be a candidate for hair restoration! There will be no more supply to demand issues we now encounter in hair transplant surgery. We will be able to create a full head of hair no matter how severe the hair loss! Even individuals with alopecia totalis ( lack of hair over their entire body) may be candidates for hair restoration when we are able to clone hair.
The tantalizing nature of this discovery is incredibly exciting and as a hair transplant surgeon the idea that I may one day be able to help every patient that comes to me, and to do with with a limitless supply of hair is almost too incredible to imagine.
As much as I would want to believe that we are right around the corner from being able to clone hair, I honestly believe that we are probably closer to 20 years away from being able to clone hair in actual practice.
Though this report out of Columbia University is very exciting, it does not address the multitude of issues that will need to be solved before we are able to clone hair in hair restoration practice.
These challenges include but are not limited to figuring out the hair cycle kinetics (getting the hair to actually grow for more than 6 weeks like it did in the study), hair color, positioning, angulation, and texture. Also, having the cloning procedure be financially feasible for the masses.
I do believe the day will come when we are able to clone hair in practice. However, I do not believe that we are very close to that day at this moment in time.
This discovery is an important one and will be another step in the long progression that one day leads us to hair cloning. It is my hope that researchers around the world are inspired by this progress and continue to make great strides towards this end.
In the meantime, I will continue to practice hair restoration surgery with every available technology available and look forward to the day when we will have unlimited supply of donor hair follicles for all patients.
All the best,
Marc Dauer, MD